The stage is small and cramped, with the amps and equipment set up right next to the toilet door. The crowd is small but the cramped space makes it seem larger. The people in the audience are initially cool and aloof. A man to the right of the stage is drinking Pernod.
The band emerge and step up onto the stage. They plug in their instruments. They are dressed in uniform black. All male, apart from one female. She steps to the microphone and begins to sing: ‘Sunday morning / Brings the dawn in / It’s just a restless feeling by my side…’
We are being transported back to Max’s Kansas City at the dawn of the 1970’s – except we know that is not possible and our rational mind keeps telling us we are actually in The Grace Emily Hotel enjoying a 2018 Adelaide Fringe show, filled with expectation, and watching local band, Little Captain, begin their homage to The Velvet Underground, a reverential salute to the most influential rock band ever to come out of the U.S. of A.
Tonight the band treats the Velvet’s canon with great respect. They don’t appear concerned about any need for being slick and note perfect and, instead, they imbue the selection of classic Velvets songs they have chosen with raw heart and intensity.
The setlist includes all the signature songs you would expect to hear at a show such as this – Waiting For The Man; Rock And Roll; White Light / White Heat; Heroin and Sweet Jane – but the band also makes room for some lesser known V.U. gems that rarely get an airing these days. It is a real treat to hear Cool It Down, Sweet Nuthin’ and Venus In Furs in any kind of live setting for the first time.
A backdrop screen projecting footage from Andy Warhol’s Factory films, featuring the Velvets and their entourage, along with other Warholian ‘Superstars’, enables Little Captain to create their own version of one of the legendary Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia happenings of late sixties New York.
Bandleader, Kristoffer Jaw-Moss, applies the appropriate phrasing, pacing and tone to his vocals to achieve an authentic delivery in each song. His guitar work is also solidly rhythmic when it needs to be, and his lead solos were suitably rough edged and restrained.
Grace Goodfellow, looking more like Edie Sedgwick than Nico, sang the songs originally performed by the iconic Germanic chanteuse with a delicate simplicity, flying in the face of the dark undertones that were ever-present in those originals. Her infectious enthusiasm for this music, songs that obviously still remain new discoveries for her, serves as a counterpoint to the nihilistic worldview that originally birthed these songs and forces a welcome reassessment of their core qualities.
Guest guitarist, Johnny Americanhorse, provided some beautifully affective atmospheric colouring to many of the songs during the two halves of this performance, and the rhythm section – Lachie Billows on drums, and Josh Pullinen on bass, worked well in tandem in propelling the rockier tunes, although Billows, at times, tended to hit the skins harder than Moe Tucker ever would have, and this took a bit of getting used to.
Overall though, this was a well-performed show that was true to the sound and legacy of the Velvet Underground.
The show will have one more run on Friday, March 2 2018. Go. Wear black. And revel in memories of a time when our lives were saved by rock and roll.
Rating: 4 stars
The Velvet Underground presented by Little Captain is scheduled for its next performance on Friday 2 March 2018 at 8:45pm
Purchase tickets here: Little Captain presents Velvet Underground